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Kaine & Portman Reintroduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Bill to Support Training For Skilled Infrastructure Jobs

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Rob Portman (R-OH), both co-chairs of the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, and U.S. Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-1), Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA-15), and Jim Langevin (D-RI-2) reintroduced the Building U.S. Infrastructure by Leveraging Demands for Skills (BUILDS) Act. The legislation would ensure workers are prepared with the skills needed for in-demand infrastructure jobs in fields like construction, transportation, maritime, and energy. 

“As we prepare to tackle critical infrastructure needs nationwide, it’s vital we also support a skilled workforce that can take on this task,” Kaine said. “This bill will help foster strong industry partnerships and career pathways to ensure we can retrain workers for millions of good-paying jobs and also strengthen our economy as we begin to recover from COVID-19.” 

“The U.S. infrastructure system is in critical need of updates while at the same time infrastructure industries struggle to meet workforce demands,” said Portman. “With the BUILDS Act we can improve worker training and provide more resources for job training programs targeted toward in-demand infrastructure-related jobs. This bipartisan bill can help us ensure that we are able to fill jobs in the infrastructure industry quickly and help those struggling with job loss, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic, get the skills they need to succeed.” 

“As we help our economy recover from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and transition to clean energy, we must connect the millions of people who are unemployed with good-paying infrastructure jobs,” said Bonamici. “Infrastructure investments have not always been paired with training to help people get the skills they need to access these opportunities. The BUILDS Act will support workers who have historically faced barriers to employment and provide them with the skills and support services they need to access millions of good-paying jobs, which improve their lives and increase the diversity of our workforce in the transportation, infrastructure, and energy sectors.” 

“As co-chair of the bipartisan Career and Technical Education Caucus, I have come to see firsthand the importance workforce development strategies play in equipping Americans with the skills necessary to repair and rebuild our infrastructure,” said Thompson. “The BUILDS Act will contribute to the impactful role industry partners play in building a healthy, reliable, and long-lasting workforce.” 

“We simply cannot rebuild and modernize our national infrastructure without developing and maintaining a highly-skilled workforce,” said Langevinco-chair of the Congressional Career and Technical Education Caucus. “As a longtime supporter of career and technical education, I have seen the tremendous impact it can have on families and entire communities. As we emerge from this pandemic, the BUILDS Act will help prepare and match highly-skilled workers with good-paying jobs across industry – it’s a true win-win.” 

In February 2021, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) graded 11 of 17 infrastructure categories a D+ or worse. A study by the Center of Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University estimated that a $1.5 trillion infrastructure investment would create 15 million new jobs. Of these jobs, nearly half would require skilled job training beyond a high school level. The BUILDS Act promotes sector partnerships made up of local businesses and industry organizations, workforce boards, labor representatives, and education and training providers to support workforce training programs in infrastructure-related jobs.

Though the need to invest in infrastructure goes back decades, there’s a renewed momentum today, especially as more than 10 million people remain unemployed across the country as a result of COVID-19, exacerbating the already historic inequities that have limited women and people of color from accessing jobs.  

Specifically the BUILDS Act would:

  • Engage businesses in workforce training programs and ensure worker success in these programs
  • Help businesses by:
    • Helping them navigate the registration process for registered apprenticeships;
    • Connecting businesses and education providers for development of classroom curricula to complement on-the-job learning;
    • Supporting participants in work-based learning programs;
    • Training managers and front-line workers to serve as mentors to work-based learning participants; and
    • Recruiting individuals for work-based learning, particularly individuals being served in the workforce system or by other human service agencies.
  • Provide support services to ensure participant success in work-based learning that would be divided between three stages: pre-employment, early employment, and continuing employment.   

The BUILDS Act is supported by the Advance CTE: State Leaders Connecting Learning to Work, the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the National Skills Coalition (NSC), Jobs for the Future, the National Taskforce on Tradeswomen’s Issues, and the National League of Cities.

Kaine and Portman introduced an earlier version of this legislation in the previous Congress.

You can view the bill text here.